Boris - Sometimes (My Bloody Valentine cover)

For today’s review — well, let’s face it, I WOULD talk about this.

This is from a group tribute album just released earlier in the week on High Fader over in Japan — Shonen Knife is on there as well doing “When You Sleep,” as you can also hear via the link.  But little surprise that Boris’s contribution was the one I was waiting to hear most of all, and here we are.

Back in 1991 as part of his Melody Maker review of Loveless, Simon Reynolds referred to the original as “an aftermath ballad, Kevin Shields’ vocal huddling forlorn in a crater overshadowed by a looming precipice of grunge.” Given where ‘grunge’ itself was about to become an unavoidable thing thanks to a couple of other things released in fall of 1991, that’s about right, but it was only in retrospect, a couple of years later or so, that I found myself going “Wow, the opening guitar suddenly makes me think of the Smashing Pumpkins a lot.”  Corgan was already name-dropping MBV by that point anyway, so it was an understandable connection.

Still, the song itself was more like a fan favorite/deep cut as such than anything else. In 1999 I couldn’t separate it from talking about the album as a whole, and I couldn’t really talk about the album then either. In any event, “Sometimes” was loved by the worshippers and all rather than being singled out for something else. That changed a few years later with Lost in Translation, Shields supervising the music to Sofia Coppola’s film and including a couple of newer songs on the soundtrack as well as selections from other artists. Plus one old MBV number and…there it was, used for a minute and a half for a scene that fans of said film — if YouTube comments are to be trusted — describe thusly: “my favorite movie, scene, actress and song,” “possibly the greatest fusion of music and film ever,” “I remember when I first saw this scene, I almost cried, I don’t know why.”  So yeah, clearly it’s settled in with a lot of folks.

Admittedly my own favorite musical moment from said film, which I’m aggressively neutral about as a whole but maybe a rewatch will finally make me decide one way or another, is Bill Murray busting out the Roxy Music, so age and perspective or I don’t know what feeds into that. A couple of years after the film, when I finally got around to describing “Sometimes” in a little more particular as I did the rest of the album, I rather floridly described the song as “the kind of ghost that haunts a darkling plain rather than lurking around mere coffins,” but hey. It begs a sense of the vast, per Reynolds’ comment, big and open. 

By that time, of course, MBV had pretty much become canon — the reunion was almost on, the original shoegaze followers/fellow travellers had become a crazy-quilt of everything from electronic freaks to art-metal types to who knows what else, and while Boris was hardly only referring to Loveless when it came to its work overall, the band by then was well on its way to becoming one of those group in that metallic vein either celebrated for the full-on Shields-style guitar overdrive or loathed for the imprecision they brought in thanks to the reverb and more. No guesses where I fall on that front — more, please.

So the fact that Boris participated in this project in the first place wasn’t surprising, the fact that they picked the song most associated with a Japanese setting nicely appropriate enough if you ask me, and the fact that they took the song, slowed it down and made it more of an even beautiful wash and melancholic flow utterly apt. It’s not that I can’t analyze it further — strictly speaking, this is the kind of cover that comforts rather than challenges, a revision that isn’t note for note but doesn’t reinvent, that Boris puts a particular stamp on that showcases a clear debt more than anything else. The removal of the clipped tightness of the original riff, however much it was then turned into serene flow, for slow cascades and even slower rhythms, is ultimately the biggest change — it works for me, but that and the removal of the sweet, serene melodic overlay for something that, again, is even more of a slow, moody undertone starting about three minutes in is about all that’s been done.

But it works. I’m a sucker for it.  I’ll ALWAYS be a sucker for it.  And I have no problem in saying that, of course.